Last week, I wrote that the Mariners had an opportunity to get right back in the thick of the AL West race. Well, since that posting, the Athletics have a six-game winning streak and the Mariners have dropped two-and-half games in the standings. The opportunity has slipped by—that's my bad.
But, the Mariners still aren't letting this series go by without taking a shot at Oakland. They already rearranged their starting rotation once, so that Felix Hernandez will start opposite Jeff Samardzija Friday—and they're shuffling again as the team announced they've demoted Taijuan Walker to Tacoma and recalled Stephen Pryor.
Lloyd McClendon has yet to speak to the media and confirm his plans but the expectation is that Hisashi Iwakuma will be bumped up a day, and Chris Young will pitch on Sunday—with each start going on normal rest. The move is simple: the Mariners want their three best pitchers going against Oakland, and they want Walker to get some work in over the break.
Though, as this was going down, there was some speculation that there might be more complex happenings going on in the background. Chris Cotillo reported earlier in the day that there had been rumblings that a trade might be coming, as he'd heard of some "roster shuffling" was in the works. This would certainly qualify as that, so maybe this is all that was coming and there is no trade. It's logical, and a little disappointing.
Lastly, it must be pointed out that the Mariners do not currently have a starter for Thursday. The expectation is that this will be a bullpen day. With Felix going Friday agains the A's, a team he normally goes to work on, this may not be a big deal—but I am wary of the team potentially punting a game against an inferior opponent.
Still, overall, this is a smart move. Before the season began, I begged that this season would be one in which we cared all the way through, one where we'd see a big series unlike any we'd seen in years. The Athletics are a long ways out in front of the Mariners now, but this is still exactly that. The Mariners are doing their damnedest to take a shot at Oakland on the field.
But with this level of competitiveness heading into the stretch run—and the M's' direct attempt at taking a chunk out of Oakland's division lead—it's impossible not to wonder if they're making the same "we're still going to take our shot at Oakland" moves off the field as well.